The President did not join us to-day in Cabinet. He was with the Secretary of War and General Halleck, and sent word there would be no meeting. This is wrong, but I know no remedy. At such a time as this, it would seem there should be free and constant intercourse and interchange of views, and a combined effort. The Government should not be carried on in the War or State Departments exclusively, nor ought there to be an attempt of that kind.
I understand from Chase that the President and Stanton are anxious that Dix should make a demonstration on Richmond, but Halleck does not respond favorably, — whether because he has not confidence in Dix, or himself, or from any cause, I do not know. This move on Richmond is cherished by Chase, and with a bold, dashing, energetic, and able general might be effective, but I agree with the President that Dix is not the man for such a movement. Probably the best thing that can now be done, is to bring all who can be spared from garrison duty to the assistance of General Meade.
Lee and his army are well advanced into Pennsylvania, and they should not be permitted to fall back and recross the Potomac. Halleck is bent on driving them back, not on intercepting their retreat; is full of zeal to drive them out of Pennsylvania. I don't want them to leave the State, except as prisoners. Meade will, I trust, keep closer to them than some others have done. I understand his first order was for the troops at Harper's Ferry to join him, which was granted. Hooker asked this, but it was denied him by the War Department and General Halleck.
Blair is much dissatisfied. He came from the Executive Mansion with me to the Navy Department and wrote a letter to the President, urging that Dix's command should be immediately brought up. Says Halleck is good for nothing and knows nothing. I proposed that we should both walk over to the War Department, but he declined; said he would not go where Stanton could insult him, that he disliked at all times to go to the War Department, had not been there for a long period, although the Government of which he is a member is in these days carried on, almost, in the War Department.
We have no positive information that the Rebels have crossed the Susquehanna, though we have rumors to that effect. There is no doubt the bridge at Columbia, one and a half miles long, has been burnt, and, it seems, by our own people. The officer who ordered it must have been imbued with Halleck's tactics. I wish the Rebel army had got across before the bridge was burnt. But Halleck's prayers and efforts, especially his prayers, are to keep the Rebels back, — drive them back across the “frontiers” instead of intercepting, capturing, and annihilating them. This movement of Lee and the Rebel forces into Pennsylvania is to me incomprehensible, nor do I get any light from military men or others in regard to it. Should they cross the Susquehanna, as our General-in-Chief and Governor Curtin fear, they will never recross it without being first captured. This they know, unless deceived by their sympathizing friends in the North, as in 1861; therefore I do not believe they will attempt it.
I have talked over this campaign with Stanton this evening, but I get nothing from him definite or satisfactory of fact or speculation, and I come to the conclusion that he is bewildered, that he gets no light from his military subordinates and advisers, and that he really has no information or opinion as to the Rebel destination or purpose.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 351-3